Grief hits everyone differently. There are many recognized stages of bereavement involved in coming to terms with someone’s death. If the death was sudden, there may be some level of shock and trauma for the family. They may genuinely not be hungry following the loss of their family member. Even if the death was expected, there is a level of emptiness and sadness that can reduce a family to not caring about the day to day routines such as mealtimes. Helping a family out with meals during this time can make all the difference.
Our eating is often connected to our emotions. Some people overeat when they feel lost and alone. They may crave sweets and carbs like pasta to help their bodies cope with the sense of emptiness. Others can’t stand the sight of food when they are sad. Even the smell of food can hit them wrong. They wonder how anyone could eat at a time like this. Both ways of feeling are normal reactions to deep sadness. Whether they want to eat or not, we all need nutritious food that will tempt us to eat healthy and keep our strength up.
The best thing you can do for a grieving family is give them respect. Some people need the comfort of others in their grief while others need space to let their guard down and rest. Ask what a grieving family needs and then listen to what they say. If you are bringing food by personally, do not plan to stay more than 10-15 minutes even if they seem agreeable to your visit.
Unless there is a circumstance where they need your help or company and specifically ask for it, it’s usually best to keep any face to face time short. If they are quiet or reserved generally, it may even be better to leave any food on the porch in a bug proof bag and send a text letting them know that dinner is served.
Meal Delivery & Gift Cards
With so many options for meal delivery, the easiest way for you to send food is by GrubHub, DoorDash, or some similar service. Make sure you check with the family and ask what they would enjoy eating. Give them some options if they seem hesitant. Don’t forget to pay in advance along with the tip and include drinks in the order.
Or send the family a GrubHub or DoorDash gift card so that they can order whatever they choose whenever they are hungry. This option may be best for those who seem less inclined to discuss meal options or a meal calendar with you.
Meal Train or Similar
For someone who seems very receptive about receiving help with meals, you can set up a meal volunteer list with a calendar. There are many good options online. One that is popular is Meal Train. With this service, you can invite friends and family to join in by Facebook or email. Everyone invited can choose their day and order food right on the site (or write in what they are bringing by).
There is an interactive calendar so that you can be sure the family has plenty. Meal ideas and recipes are included, but for now, because of the pandemic, MealTrain is asking everyone to order food versus making it themselves. This is an easy way to help a family that may need support while they find a way to live in their new normal.
Homemade Food Ideas
If you are bringing homemade food to someone’s house, write the ingredients on a card for them as a “recipe” gift. This is SUPER IMPORTANT for families who have allergies or food intolerances or are on a special diet. Displaying the ingredients can prevent health issues for diabetics and allergic or food-intolerant people.
Also, with so many people eating in different ways than a cultural norm, a recipe can prevent a vegan from accidentally eating meat and help someone on a keto diet avoid carbohydrates.
More Helpful Tips
Meal Train offers some great tips if you are bringing homemade food over.
- Include Instructions with your dish: “Bake for 1 hour at 350 degrees.”
- Bring breakfast food for the following morning, such as muffins, bagels, and fruit salad.
- If possible, text the recipient that you are on your way. A little heads up can go a long way.
When parents are hit hard by grief or shock, the children in the family are often hardest hit with a lack of regular mealtimes. Children usually continue to have an appetite and still crave structure. When little ones are dependent on the parents to be fed, it is crucial to help parents have food that is easy to prepare on hand.
It is also most welcome for families with very small children to bring milk/formula or diapers. If you do decide to visit briefly, give special attention to the childrens’ needs as a gift to the parents who may be emotionally exhausted.
We All Have Differing Needs
Just as there is no “right” way to grieve, there is no “right” way to feed a grieving family. Every family is different and has needs that may differ from yours or others. The key to making food for a grieving family is listening. Feed more than their stomachs. Feed their need for respect for their individual journey through the shock or sadness.
If you ask about bringing a lasagna and cake over and they seem excited, bring that and more, knowing that you are raising their spirits! If they seem reluctant because of diet reasons or saying they don’t need anything, send them a meal gift card and know that you are meeting a need while respecting their space. When you truly care for a family, you let them know that no matter what they need, you are part of the solution.
We Want to Help
If you have questions or concerns about a grieving family, reach out to us at Renaissance Funeral Home. We want to be a resource for you and for grieving families in our community. Our times are very different now than 20 years ago, or even 1 year ago, but some things never change. Our core values are about creating a safe space for grieving families and presenting solutions for the arrangements necessary when a loved one passes on.
For more info or for meal ideas and recipes, check out these sites:
Offers more tips on how to handle families who reject food & what to bring
Meals cooked and delivered to the family
More tips and 20 meal ideas